The Jets’ defensive starters weren’t perfect tonight at MetLife Stadium, but there were plenty of reasons to be encouraged from the first unit’s performance against their crosstown rivals in the 17-3 verdict over the Giants.
Despite bending at various points, the starters yielded no touchdowns in 30 minutes of work and they’ll probably now finish the summer with just 10 points allowed on 17 drives. After finishing sixth in points allowed last year at 19 per game, the Green & White have good reason to feel confident heading into the regular-season opener Sept. 11 against the Dallas Cowboys.
The best news might be after amassing just 12 interceptions in 16 games last season, the Jets collected two in the first half for the second consecutive week and the team has totaled six in three contests.
“That’s what it should be,” said Jets head coach Rex Ryan. “Tipped balls and overthrows — that’s where you’re going to get your picks and you have to be able to rush the passer and make him elevate his throws.”
Safety Jim Leonhard, who had a pick the Jets’ 27-7 win over the Bengals at the Met, played the slot perfectly and halted the Giants’ first drive of the game as they attempted to push into the red zone.
Then in the second quarter, Eli Manning felt City pressure and didn’t like it. On a second-and-8 play from the Giants 37, Manning kept on retreating when he saw big Mike DeVito and company in his face. The result was a horribly thrown ball up the left sideline that David “Hitman” Harris picked off by the Jets’ bench. Perhaps the only thing Harris did wrong all night was step out of bounds at the NYG 44.
“We did a great job of taking the ball away,” Leonhard said. “We gave up too many yards, that was the biggest thing. We’ll take a look at the film and see what happened. We did a great job of getting the ball back to our offense and we are seeing it pay off right now.”
Unfortunately, Mark Sanchez turned the ball over three plays later and the Green & White couldn’t capitalize on a golden chance opportunity. While the Giants held the ball for 18:20 and amassed 13 first downs before intermission, the Jets made key stops and held their counterparts to just 2-of-8 on their third down conversions.
After missing all but one play of the preseason, Bart Scott returned to action and was sturdy along with Harris. He was in on the second play from scrimmage — stopping Brandon Jacobs for a 2-yard gain.
The Madbacker, who got caught in an unfavorable matchup with Ahmad Bradshaw in space on a 27-yard pass play in the second, was credited with four solos and four assists on the evening and looked spry applying some upfield pressure. In his only extended action of the preseason, Scott delivered some welcomed punishment.
“It was good to kind of push myself,” Scott said. “In most games, if you’re playing great defense, you’re only playing 60 snaps. So it was good to get 45 and close to a real game simulation. We would have loved to get off the field for a little rest, but it was good to get the heart rate going and push through. Next time when we get to No. 45, you’ve been there before and you can push through it.”
Harris had the interception, three solo tackles and four assists, and happily separated WR Mario Manningham from one pass.
“David had a couple of big hits and that’s what David can bring to the table,” Ryan said. “If you want to cross that middle a little bit, you kind of do it at your own risk. He’s a big hitter and I thought he did a good job.”
Nose tackle Sione Pouha sat for a second straight game with a knee injury, but Martin Tevaseu again held his own in the middle. Danny Ware (5 carries, 23 yards) and Brandon Jacobs (8-22) combined for 45 yards on 11 carries against one of the league’s stingiest rush defenses.
“MTV played very, very solid,” Scott said of the 6’2″, 325-pound Tevaseu. “He’s almost like a Bo like player. They’re similar in how they fire off the ball and get penetration. We know what Bo can do and he’ll make plays, but now we have depth. We can rotate these guys in and keep these guys fresh.”
After holding the Texans scoreless in two drives and then giving up one TD in eight drives against the Bengals, the Jets surrendered just a field goal to the G-Men on seven first-half possessions. Not to be overlooked, the second-teamers came on and allowed some yards before starting the third stanza with a goal-line stand.
There were some personnel changes on the defensive ball in the expedited offseason, but rest assured the Jets will again have one of the top units in football. The starters will probably get a rest on Thursday and the focus will soon shift to Tony Romo and the Cowboys.
Tags: Bart Scott, David Harris, first defense, Jim Leonhard, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan
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